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It’s human nature – by the time a recipe is finished, we can’t wait to toss the leftover mess into the garbage.
Things like pumpkin guts, coffee grounds, and pickle juice are usually throwaways, as a result.
But coffee grounds can actually be used to fertilize plants, and carrot tops can add flavor to tons of different recipes. Even though they seem “gross,” there are ways in which we can use our scraps for good – and ways in which we can recycle them to create even more great meals.
Check out this list of 15 innovative ways to use food scraps the next time you’re ready to toss something in the trash.
Chop up those leafy green carrot tops to add flavor to many recipes.
- Flickr/U.S. Department of Agriculture
We often forget about vegetable stems – but they’re actually filled with valuable nutrients and flavor.
The same is true for carrot tops. Making the most of your carrot is as simple as chopping the leafy part into fine pieces, which you can then add to a bunch of recipes: rice pilaf, pesto sauce, salad, etc., for added flavor.
Cook your peeled potato skins and turn them into chips.
It’s not required to peel the skins off potatoes – in fact, they’re included in a lot of great recipes.
But if you’re making something like mashed potatoes, you’re going to have a lot of leftover peels, which you can roast to make delicious chips, and season with your favorite spices.
Use unwanted bread ends to make croutons.
- Wikimedia Commons
The ends of a loaf of bread are the parts people typically toss into the garbage.
But if you save and freeze them, you can make croutons or breadcrumbs. When you’re ready to cook them, just let them thaw for a bit – then, after they’re out of the oven, season them however you want.
Orange peels can be made into a vinegar-based cleaner.
Citrus fruits have a naturally crisp smell – and this can be put to amazing use when cleaning your home.
After you’re done peeling an orange, throw the skin into a jar with vinegar. If you let it sit for about week, you’ll have a great vinegar-based cleaner without that terrible vinegar smell.
You can dilute the mixture with water to clean your floors, or put it into a spray bottle to make an all-purpose cleaner. Swap it with white vinegar in a cooking recipe, too, for a sweeter taste.
Toss leftover coffee grounds into the soil of your plants — they make a great fertilizer.
- Zach Woolf/Flickr
Caffeine is how many humans survive. But plants can benefit from coffee, too – their soil gets a boost in nitrogen from coffee grounds.
It’s as easy as placing the grounds right into the soil of any potted plant. Doing so adds organic material to the soil, which improves water retention, drainage, and airflow.
The coffee grounds will also attract earthworms and other microorganisms, and these little guys are beneficial to growth.
Steam leftover beet greens and eat them on their own.
- Wikimedia Commons
Like other vegetable stems, beet greens are good for you and able to be incorporated into other recipes, like salad and pasta.
But they’re also good enough to eat on their own – steamed with a little butter, salt, and pepper, they make a great side to any main course.
There are a few things you can do with your leftover pumpkin this Halloween.
After you’re done carving a face into your pumpkin this fall, don’t throw away any leftovers.
Pumpkin guts can be blended into a yummy puree – which, in turn, can be used for pumpkin pies, bagels, pancakes, oatmeal, soup, etc.
You can also bake the seeds in the oven to make a healthy snack.
The seeds from some of your favorite fruits and vegetables can be used to grow your own.
- iStock/Getty Images
Many of your favorite fruits and vegetables can be grown in your own backyard – so the next time you’re chopping, be sure to check before you throw away your seeds.
Pits of plums, peaches, and avocados can be planted. You can also grow from lemon seeds and – surprisingly – the tops of pineapples, though they might take a while to rear full fruit.
A lot of fruit peels can be used to make flavored water.
- Syda Productions/Shutterstock
Skip the Vitamin Water – make your own healthy fruit infusion at home with leftover fruit and vegetable peels.
If you have a hankering for some refreshing cucumber or lemon drink (or any kind of fruit, really), just drop the peels into a bottle of plain water. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor will be.
Mushy brown bananas can be used to make banana bread and other baked goods.
- Laura D’Alessandro/Flickr
No one likes overly ripe, overly sweet bananas, but they make excellent baked goods. Mash them before mixing them into batter for recipes like banana bread.
The tough outer greens from kale can be ground into a healthy powder — and you can add it to your shakes.
- William Wei/Business Insider
Kale, though nutritious, is not always delicious – but you can use the tough bits of it in other recipes.
Dehydrate the leaves you don’t want and grind them into a powder. You can add a dash of that to your protein shake in the morning – or whenever you want a little boost of nutrients.
Down to the last pickle in the jar? Don’t pour the juice out — pickle other vegetables with it.
If you’re not one of those people who likes to drink the pickle juice, or add it to cocktails, save it and use it to become a pickling master.
You can throw canned green beans into the leftover brine, or even onions, artichokes, and cucumbers (for more pickles).
Old wine can be cooked with months after being opened.
- Steven Depolo/Flickr
When your bottle of wine gets a little too foul-smelling to drink, you can still use it to cook.
Recipes that call for wine reductions or braised beef, for instance, can be great ways to use every last bit of the bottle – and add that delicious wine flavor to the dish.
Just make sure you cook it, unless you’re doing DIY vinegar or marinating fruit.
Banana peels can be used to shine shoes and tenderize meat.
- Mike Mozart/Flickr
Bananas really are the wonder fruit – in addition to being a great source of potassium, their peels are extremely versatile.
Are your leather shoes looking dull? Simply rub the inside of a banana peel onto your shoe, and it’ll be shiny in no time. You can also place a ripe banana peel on the bottom of a roasting pan to moisten whatever meat you’re cooking.
The options for leftover tea bags are endless.
In addition to recycling tea bags to make more tea, you can use them as DIY deodorizers for your home and carpets, as fertilizer for plants, or as hand and foot scrubs.
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